House debates

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Agriculture Industry

3:00 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought, and Emergency Management. Will the minister outline to the House how new technologies are supporting the Morrison-McCormack government's national soils and biodiversity stewardship strategies which will assist in securing the future of our agricultural industry, care for our country and build a strong Australia?

3:01 pm

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Mallee for her question and acknowledge the significant contribution the electorate of Mallee makes towards the $65 billion agricultural industry and the pivotal role Mallee will take in helping agriculture reach its ambitious goal of $100 billion by 2030. To achieve that goal, you have to have the right foundations, and those foundations start with our soils.

Our soils contribute around $930 billion indirectly to our economy each year, so their health is pivotal and important not only to agriculture but to our environment and our whole economy. That's why the Prime Minister at the National Press Club outlined that one of the key focuses this year for our government is around caring for country. That aligns with our Ag2030 plan and one of the strategic pillars of that, which is around stewardship—empowering our farmers and giving them the tools to manage their soils and country not only for increased productivity but also to manage the environment. A lot of that work has already been done.

We have to acknowledge the great work that Major General Jeffery undertook as our first National Soils Advocate. He has left a lasting legacy because of his passion and commitment for soils. That's now been taken on by the Hon. Penelope Wensley AC, and she will carry on in those footsteps, as big as they are, to ensure that we have a tactile response around real outcomes that farmers can understand—extension work and how we've got people sitting around kitchen tables explaining the science and collecting the data so that we're equipping those farmers with the new science and the new technology and allowing them to implement it on their farms. Those are the real outcomes that we continue to look for. That's complemented with the collection of the science through a $40 million investment through Soil CRC, making sure that cutting-edge science and technologies continue to be invested in by government but also by industry. That's making sure those tools are real.

We've also said through the minister for energy that we have now provided $14 million to try and understand and measure carbon in soil. At the moment, it's around $30 a hectare to be able to undertake. If we can get it down to around $3, that would be transformational for our farmers to play another significant role not just in the stewardship of their land but in the reduction of emissions and carbon in our environment. We're letting farmers do the heavy lifting, as they have always done.

That complements our biodiversity stewardship fund of $34 million, and I'm proud to say that the ANU has just completed work around being able to assess the improvement in biodiversity of our farmers from start to go. We're able to reward them through a number of existing programs that the government has been putting out. We're rewarding farmers for the stewardship of their land, improving biodiversity, abating carbon and improving the biodiversity of our country. These are significant investments not just in protecting our economy but also about protecting Australia.